Inner Spirituality

WHILE TWENTIETH CENTURY behavioural psychology denies the existence of spirituality, soul and even consciousness, in line with scientific positivism,[i] there is a long historical tradition of locating spirituality or ‘God’ within the individual, in both psychology and religion – hence Jungian depth and archetypal psychology, world mythology, Gnosticism, Buddhism, Western and Eastern mysticism and the ancient primal and polytheistic religions of the world.

Depth and archetypal psychology maintain the idea of spirituality as being inner, inherent in the mind, or intrinsic to the psyche or soul. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961), one of the greatest explorers of the human mind and a life-long student of world religions, both historical and cultural – is more than any other Western thinker in recent times associated with the search for inner spirituality. His thinking spans both modernism and postmodernism. English writer and broadcaster J.B Priestly (1894-1984), wrote of Jung in the Sunday Telegraph:

“He was on a giant scale…he was a master physician of the soul in his insights, a profound sage in his conclusions. He is also one of Western Man’s great liberators.”[ii]

Perceiving ‘spirituality as intrinsic to the psyche’ is both a recent phenomenon as well as having its roots in antiquity. However it has never been a mainstream focus of religion in the monotheistic West – and it is outside the orthodox religious establishments that it is again being seriously considered. Donald Broadribb argues that ‘God’ is increasingly being seen in terms of inner experience and process.

“In line with the more introverted religious philosophies of the East to which many Westerners are turning, “God” has come to be understood more and more as an inner experience and less and less as an identifiable “object” existing apart from the individual.”[iii]

Both Jung and the Gnostics of the early Christian period saw spirituality as an intrinsic property of the psyche. Self-exploration at the deepest levels, both believed, leads to spiritual wakening. In fact, “a true spiritual experience may be one of the most basic drives in the psyche, and may even be an essential psychological need.”[iv] Curtis Smith summarises Jung’s view that “the human position is supreme, with the psyche and its realization serving as the basis of religious meaning.”[v] To realise the psyche is to realise one’s interconnectedness with all things:

“At the farthest reaches of the self-realization process the boundary between psyche and world blurs to the point of extinction, so that rather than an impenetrable wall separating psyche and world, psyche and world appear as points on a continuum, forming an indivisible whole. For Jung, therefore human existence is simultaneously universal and particular… to realize the self is to realize one’s interconnectedness with all things.”[vi]

For Jung all religious experience is psychic in origin. While he is arguably the twentieth century’s greatest thinker on religion and spirituality as grounded in the psyche, and hence of depth or imaginative psychology, he is not the only thinker to link spirituality with the psyche. Even Freud (1856-1939), who made a devastating critique of religion on the “manifest” level as illusion, was on the “latent” level preoccupied with religion as mystery deep within the psyche.[vii]

THE INTERIOR JOURNEY into the depths of the psyche in search for the ground of all being, is inherent to both mysticism and depth psychology. Even within the Western monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which were not originally mystical, there are schools of thought and prominent individuals who have emphasised the subjective experience. ‘God’ and the Pleroma (representing a map of the soul) were not external realities ‘out there’ but were to be found within. Karen Armstrong, for example, points out that the Gnostics “showed that many of the new converts to Christianity were not satisfied with the traditional idea of God which they had inherited from Judaism.”[viii] Hippolytus in the Heresies admonishes:

“Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you makes everything his own and says, My God, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body. Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. Learn how it happens that one watches without willing, loves without willing. If you carefully investigate these matters, you will find him in yourself.”[ix]

By concentrating on the divine energy within, rather than the nature of an external God outside, the mystic was better able to ‘untie the knots’ within the psyche and take ownership of personal ‘evil’, or the unrealised shadowside which conflicts with the ego, as Jung defined it. This was rather similar to the psychoanalytic attempt to unlock complexes which impede mental health and fulfilled living. Karen Armstrong, theologian and a former nun, argues:

“One of the problems of ethical monotheism is that it isolates evil. Because we cannot accept the idea that there is evil in our God, there is a danger that we will not be able to endure it within ourselves. It can then be pushed away and made monstrous and inhuman. The terrifying image of Satan in Western Christendom was such a distorted projection.”[x]

It is not hard to see that the mystic was often at odds with the certainties of mainstream and more dogmatic forms of religion. Since each individual had “had a unique experience of God, it followed that no one religion could express the whole of the divine mystery”.[xi] Donald Broadribb makes the point that:

“Judaism, Christianity and Islam in their main streams have at times during their history persecuted union mystics as heretics who deny the essential division between humanity and God, reserving the possible full union of human and divine for only one person (Jesus, in Christianity) or denying it altogether (as in Judaism and Islam).”[xii]

MYTHOLOGY which is a feature of primal religions, the pagan and the early matriarchal religions, has often been an attempt to explain the inner world of the psyche. However as Armstrong points out, the Gods and Goddesses of the myths were regarded as heathen, inferior and a challenge to the supremacy of the monotheistic God of the prophets of Israel:

“The prophets had declared war on mythology: their God was active in history and in current political events rather than in the primordial sacred time of myth.”[xiii]

Mythology was reasserted however when some monotheists turned to mysticism. Inadvertantly or not, the mystics reissued the challenge to the supremacy of a monotheistic God idealised in dogmatic and politically orientated religious traditions. The mystical experience of “God” has characteristics common to all faiths and hence it tends to pull down the barriers separating religions. Armstrong further describes the mystical experience as being subjective, involving an interior journey.

“[It is] not a perception of an objective fact outside the self: it is undertaken through the image-making part of the mind – often called the imagination – rather than through the more cerebral, logical faculty. Finally, it is something that the mystic creates in himself or herself deliberately: certain physical or mental exercises yield the final vision; it does not always come upon them unawares.”[xiv]

Both Freud and Jung turned to the myths of the ancients to explain the inner world of the psyche and the unconscious.

The American Joseph Campbell’s (1904-1987) work in the study of world comparative mythology and comparative religion, also has strong affinities with Jung and depth psychology. As Armstrong points out, the current enthusiasm for psychoanalysis in the West can be seen as a desire for some kind of mysticism because there are arresting similarities between the two disciplines.[xv]

[i] Behaviourism is a school of psychology that regards objective observable aspects of the behaviour of organisms as the only valid subject of study; cf. Collins English Dictionary, eds., Hanks, P., Long, T.H., Urdang, L. (London: Collins, 1977),132. See also; A Dictionary of Philosophy, eds., Speake, J., Isaacs, A. (London: Pan Books, 1979), 37; The Oxford Companion to the Mind, ed., Richard L. Gregory (Oxford University Press, 1987), 71-74 ; The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed., Ted Honderich (Oxford University Press, 1995), 81-2.

[ii] J.B. Priestly, Sunday Telegraph. See review C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Great Britain: Fount Paperbacks, 1977. First published, 1961)

[iii] Donald Broadribb, The Mystical Chorus – Jung and the Religious Dimension (Australia: Millenium Books, 1995), 127.

[iv] John Pennachio, ‘Gnostic Illumination and Carl Jung’s Individuation’, Journal of Religion and Health v.31, no.3, Fall (1992), 245.

[v] Curtis D. Smith, ‘Psychological Ultimacy: Jung and the Human Basis of Religious Meaning’, Religious Humanism v.25, no.4 (1991), 174.

[vi] Ibid, 178.

[vii] R. Melvin Keiser, ‘Postcritical Religion and the Latent Freud’, Zygon v.25. no.4 (1990), 433.

[viii] Karen Armstrong, A History of God (London: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1994), 115.

[ix] Hippolytus, Heresies 8.15. 1-2 as cited in Armstrong, Ibid, 114.

[x] Karen Armstrong (1994) A History of God, 287.

[xi] Ibid, 275.

[xii] Donald Broadribb (1995) The Mystical Chorus,122.

[xiii] Karen Armstrong (1994) A History of God, 244.

[xiv] Ibid, 253.

[xv] Ibid, 245.

Sophia and Quantum Physics

THE ANCIENT DESCRIPTIONS which point to Sophia as Anima Mundi/World Soul – hence “wisdom that lies hidden or bound within matter”; “the reconciliation of nature and spirit”; “the pre-terrestrial vision of the celestial world” – have strong similarities with the descriptions made by quantum physicists about the quantum realities behind and within matter, the world and the universe.

Quantum physicists describe symmetries and archetypes beyond matter and enfolded in the material world. They speak of wholeness of matter and mind at the quantum level and nonlocal space-time. They describe consciousness within matter; active information directing matter. They talk of archetypes, acausal orderedness, as a basis for science, and quantums of information applicable to both mind and matter.

Some quantum physicists have explicitly acknowledged a return to the concept of Anima Mundi/World Soul with the discovery in science of quantum phenomena.

Shortly before his death Werner Heisenberg argued that what is fundamental in nature is not particles but the symmetries which lie beyond them. These symmetries can be thought of as the archetypes of all matter and the ground of material existence.[i]

Bohr’s theoretical physics emphasis on wholeness and the nonlocal nature of spacetime is compatible with Sophianic Anima Mundi/World Soul. This deeper nonlocal order has been found to be essential to thought processes. Here mind and matter appear to have something in common. “Indeed this leads to the general proposal that mind and matter are not separate and distinct substances but that like light and radio waves they are orders that lie within a common spectrum”.[ii]

Bohm’s theory that quantum processes could be interpreted as having what could almost be called a “mental” side – is also in accord with Sophianic Anima Mundi/World Soul – whereby active information has a directing effect on quantum processes, playing a formative role in unfolding the elementary particles out of their grounding quantum field.[iii]

Carl Friedrich Von Weizsacker is one who argued for the re-emergence of the World Soul motif on the basis that, indeed, quantum theory is to be understood as a theory of information – a holism that encompasses all that exists in both the realms of mind and matter:

“In his recent discussion of implications of his theory of ur-alternatives, von Weizsacker has drawn attention to the possibility for the re-emergence of the World Soul: he has argued that if quantum theory may be understood to be a theory of information, then it applies to information about mental events as well as physical events. According to the ur theory, res cognitans and res extensa must then enter into appearance together, and thus Cartesian dualism is theoretically strictly refuted. The consequence of this is a holism that encompasses all that exists in both the realms of mind and of matter that brings forth the question of the possibility of a World Soul.”[iv]

Sophia World Soul – Celestial Light 

JUNG WAS EXPLORING along similar lines to the quantum physicists when he introduced the idea of a psychoid archetype (unus mundus) which he said contains both mind and matter and yet goes beyond them both. Jung coined the term ‘psychoid unconscious’ to account for the unitary nature of psyche and world.[v] It is rooted in the unconscious, rather than being unified by an external metaphysical being or reality.

More precisely, “the ‘psychoid unconscious’ can be considered a further gradation of the unconscious where self and world meet, and where all opposites are reconciled”.[vi] The Anima Mundi/World Soul is very similar to the psychoid archetype or unus mundus.

The physicist Wolfgang Pauli took up Jung’s psychoid archetype because he saw it as a major contribution to understanding the ‘laws’ of nature:

“For Pauli, the psychoid archetype represented a sort of ‘missing link’ between the world which is the legitimate study of science, and the mind of the scientist who studies it. Jung’s postulate was not just ‘the bridge to matter in general’ but to ‘a cosmic order independent of our choice and distinct from the world of phenomena’.”[vii]

Sophianic Wisdom and individuation, as we have seen, are closely identified, if not identical. Individuation, to embrace the whole, both the known and the unknown in oneself, is also associated with Anima Mundi/World Soul and Jung’s psychoid archetype, or unus mundus.

In alchemy Sophia is associated with the evolution of one’s conscious. This transformation process is individuation.Sophia is here associated with symbols which express the depths of the self, psyche and soul in the world, where body becomes spirit and spirit becomes body.

One of these symbols is of Sophia as a Tree, another is of Sophia as Salt.[viii] Light, lightning, illumination, shining, gold, ‘incarnated light’, are also associated with Sophianic Wisdom and individuation; where body becomes spirit and spirit body, where heaven and earth are connected in the depths of self, psyche and soul in the World, World Soul.[ix]

Henry Corbin describes Sophianity from Mazdean to Shi’ite Iran, as “for the human being to accede here and now to the Celestial Earth, to the world of Hurqalya, world of ‘celestial corporeity’, which is that of the subtle bodies of Light”.[x]

In a strikingly similar description, scientist Darryl Reanney also writes of light and consciousness. Reanney points out that those rare moments when consciousness breaks free of ego are described as “moments of illumination”; the “inbreaking of light” and “the metaphor of consciousness as a light-bringing agent is widespread in all mystical literature”.[xi]

Individuation is a breaking free of ego consciousness into a realisation of Anima Mundi/World Soul: “Individuation does not shut one out from the world, but gathers the world to one’s self”.[xii] Individuation here is self-realisation which involves the psychoid archetype – unus mundus – in other words, Anima Mundi/World Soul.

The enfolded and implicate in Anima Mundi/World Soul becomes unfolded and explicit. Individuation becomes the self-realisation of the psychoid archetype. Whitmont describes it this way:

“The new Aquarian view, ushered in by twentieth-century physics, no longer thinks in terms of discrete objects; rather it conceives of a continuous flux of process, vibrational fields, quantum pulses of an undefinable, nonmaterial substratum. This is a universal consciousness, perhaps, yet prior to what we call consciousness. Prior to energy and matter, it results in both. It is a self-directed flow that gives form. The dynamics of our world, in the view of the modern myth, do not flow from a maker or director outside of it, who manipulates it like an object. The world is inner or self-directed, an immanense groping for self-realization in the three dimensions of space, and in the fourth dimension of time as well. Consciousness and conscience now discover self-direction. They find themselves in relation to the newly emerging Feminine – the Yin – as inner-directed awareness, with its growing transformative aspect – time.”[xiii]

This is a description of the new, yet at the same time ancient, Sophia Anima Mundi/World Soul Archetype.

Archetypal Philosopher James Hillman maintains that we need “an aesthetic response to the world. This response ties the individual soul immediately with the world soul”; indeed they are inseparable as “(a)ny alteration in the human psyche resonates with a change in the psyche of the world”.[xiv] The return of the Anima Mundi/World Soul should therefore be a therapeutic goal both for the individual and the world.

Geographer Peter Bishop influenced by archetypal psychology, maintains that the study of a country or a place and its people should be a task that contributes “towards the return of soul to the world, to an anima mundi psychology”.[xv]While there has been a long tradition of locating the psyche somehow within both the individual and the world, this has been lost in recent centuries. However, as Hillman warns, “the more we concentrate on literalizing interiority within my person the more we lose the sense of soul as a psychic reality… within all things”.[xvi]

In his study of Tibet, for example, Bishop found that the place had a logic and coherence of its own, its genius loci: it was not a ‘silent other’ but alive, substantial and compelling. “It was part of the world calling attention to itself, deepening our soulful appreciation of mountains, of deserts and rivers, of light and colour, of time and space, of myriad peoples and their cultures, of fauna and flora, of the plurality of imaginative possibilities”.[xvii]  

This is an instance of a return of perception of Anima Mundi/World Soul; and a return of the Sophianic Wisdom Archetype. In short, spirituality is to be sought in individuation, the opening up to the unus mundus; or in other words the Sophianic Anima Mundi, World Soul. This deep realisation of Self lies at the heart of all religious intimations of the essential oneness of life.

[i] F. David Peat, Synchronicity — The Bridge between Matter and Mind (N.Y & London: Bantam Books, 1988), 94.
[ii] Ibid, 185-186.
[iii] Ibid, 186-187.
[iv] Charles R. Card, ‘The Emergence of Archetypes in Present-Day Science and its Significance for Contemporary Philosophy of Nature’, Dynamical Psychology (1996), 26-27.
[v] C.G. Jung, ‘Mysterium Conjunctions’ in: The Collected Works, vol.14, para. 552.
[vi] Curtis D. Smith, ‘Psychological Ultimacy: Jung and the Human Basis of Religious Meaning’, Religious Humanism, vol.25: 4 (1991), 177.
[vii] Stevens (1982) Archetype, 74.
[viii] Damiani (1998) Sophia: Exile and Return, 76-77.
[ix] See Titus Burckhardt, Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul. (London: Stuart & Watkins, 1967), 82-83.
[x] Henry Corbin (1981) ‘Towards a Chart of the Imaginal’, 32-33.
[xi] Darryl Reanney(1991) The Death of Forever – A New Future for Human Consciousness, 220.
[xii] C.G. Jung, ‘The Structures and Dynamics of the Psyche’ in: The Collected Works, vol. 8, para, 226.
[xiii] Whitmont (1982) The Return of the Goddess, 221.
[xiv] Hillman, ‘Anima Mundi – The Return of the Soul to the World’ , Spring: An Annual of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought ( 1982),79.
[xv] Peter Bishop, The Myth of Shangri-La – Tibet, Travel Writing and the Western Creation of Sacred Landscape (University of California Press, 1989), 251.
[xvi] Ibid.
[xvii] Ibid.

Techno-Wizardary – the Tricksters’ Playground

IRONICALLY, WHILE THE IMAGE of technology is secular, it rests on Christian myths, as Davis points out:

“[T]his secular image was framed all along by Christian myths: the biblical call to conquer nature, the Protestant work ethic, and, in particular, the millennialist vision of a New Jerusalem, the earthly paradise that the Book of Revelation claims will crown the course of history. Despite a century of Hiroshimas, Bhopals, and Chernobyls, this myth of an engineered utopia still propels the ideology of technological progress, with its perennial promises of freedom, prosperity, and release from disease and want.”[i]

The old image of technology for well over a century was industrial. Lewis Mumford called it the “myth of the Machine” and, as Davis points out, it rested on “the authority of technical and scientific elites, and in the intrinsic value of efficiency, control, unrestrained technological development, and economic expansion”.[ii]

The new image of technology is less mechanised and described in the mythology of information, electronic minds cloud computing, infinite databases, computerized forecasting, hypertext libraries, virtual realities, micro-chip engineering, artificial intelligence, bio-engineering, and global internet and telecommunication networking.   Hence:

“Boundaries dissolve, and we drift into the no-man’s zones between synthetic and organic life, between actual and virtual environments, between local communities and global flows of goods, information, labour, and capital. With pills modifying personality, machines modifying bodies, and synthetic pleasures and net-worked minds engineering a more fluid and invented sense of self, the boundaries of our identities are mutating as well. The horizon melts into a limitless question mark, and like the cartographers of old, we glimpse yawning monstrosities and mind-forged utopias beyond the edges of our paltry and provisional maps.”[iii]

The playground of the Trickster is new technology. Erik Davis argues:

“Of all the godforms that haunt the Greek mind, Hermes is the one who would feel most at home in our wired world. Indeed, with his mischievous combination of speed, trickery, and profitable mediation, he can almost be seen as the archaic mascot of the information age… He flies “as fleet as thought”, an image of the daylight mind, with its plans and synaptic leaps, its chatter and overload. Hermes shows that these minds are not islands, but nodes in an immense electric tangle of words, images, songs, and signals. Hermes rules the transtemporal world of information exchange.”[iv]

“A Host of Guises”

TRICKSTER IS MASTER of the persona and masks. His ego is fluid. He is both hero and anti-hero. Davis states:

“More than mere delivery boy, Hermes wears a host of guises; con artist, herald, inventor, merchant, magus, thief… Lord of the lucky find, Hermes crafts opportunity like those brash start-up companies that fill a market niche by creating it in the first place.”[v]

The Greeks were quite clear about it – Hermes is a thief. However the Trickster’s banditry is not based on raw power. He is no mugger or thug. Hermes is the hacker, the spy and the mastermind. He is executor of the slickest legal contracts.[vi]

[i] Erik Davis (1999) Techgnosis, 3.
[ii] Ibid, 3.
[iii] Ibid, 1.
[iv] Ibid, 14.
[v] Ibid, 14-15.
[vi] Ibid, 15.

Trickster Hero

THE HERO AND EGO are more developed in the Trickster than in the Anthropocentric Landscape of the Heavenly God-Father Archetype.

While the hero myths vary enormously in detail, structurally they are very similar. There is a universal pattern even although the myths were developed by groups or individuals without direct cultural contact.   

The special function of the hero myth is the development of the individual’s ego consciousness and his exploration and coming to awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses, which equips him for later challenges of life.[i]   Joseph L. Henderson argues:

“Over and over again one hears a tale describing a hero’s miraculous but humble birth, his early proof of superhuman strength, his rapid rise to prominence or power, his triumphant struggle with the forces of evil, his fallibility to the sin of pride (hybris), and his fall through betrayal or a “heroic” sacrifice that ends in his death.”[ii]

Erich Neumann states “The hero is always a light-bringer and emissary of light … The hero’s victory brings with it a new spiritual status, a new knowledge, and an alteration of consciousness”: the heroic age is characterised as the “predominance of individual personality”.[iii] All are characteristics of the Trickster Hero.

The heroic culminates in the Technological/Materialist Landscape in the development of science and the world as object:[iv]

“The activity of masculine consciousness is heroic in so far as it voluntarily takes upon itself the archetypal struggle with the dragon of the unconscious and carries it to successful conclusion… The correlation of consciousness with masculinity culminates in the development of science, as an attempt by the masculine spirit to emancipate itself from the power of the unconscious. Wherever science appears it breaks up the original character of the world, which was filled with unconscious projections. Thus, stripped of projection, the world becomes objective, a scientific construction of the mind.”[v]

THE TRICKSTER HERO PITS HIMSELF AGAINST THE OLD GOD. Neumann maintains that in the modern world the disintegration of the old system of values is in full swing.[vi] In the modern world the hero with his human ego pits himself against the old deity. Thus:

“the hero ceases to be instrument of the gods and begins to play his own independent part as a human being; and when he finally becomes, in modern man a battleground for suprapersonal forces, where the human ego pits itself against the deity. As breaker of the old law, man becomes the opponent of the old system and the bringer of the new, which he confers upon mankind against the will of the old deity.”[vii]

[i] Carl Jung (ed.), Man and His Symbols (London: Picador, Pan Books, 1978).
[ii] Joseph L. Henderson, ‘Ancient Myths and Modern Man’ in: Carl Jung (ed.),  Man and His Symbols, 101.
[iii] Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness (New York: Princeton University Press,  Bollingen Series XLII, 1973), 160-161.
[iv] Ibid, 340-341.
[v] Ibid, 340-341.
[vi] Ibid, 390.
[vii] Ibid, 177.

“Trickster God is Universal”

THE TRICKSTER ARCHETYPE – or Trickster God, otherwise known in the West as the Greek God Hermes – is universal. Trickster is found in the mythologies of many peoples. Like Hecate – whose cult probably spread from Anatolia into Greece and who is associated with Hermes – Trickster is the quintessential master of boundaries and transitions. He brings both good luck and bad, both profit and loss. He is the patron of both travellers and thieves. Like Hecate, Trickster is the guide of souls to the underworld and the messenger of the gods. He surprises mundane reality with the unexpected and miraculous. In traditional primal cultures, Trickster emerges under the dominance of the Earth Mother.[i] Combs and Holland point out:

“The trickster god is universal. He is known to the Native American peoples as Ictinike, Coyote, Rabbit and others; he is Maui to the Polynesian Islanders; Loki to the old Germanic tribes of Europe; and Krishna in the sacred mythology of India. Best known to most of us in the West is the Greek god Hermes, who represents the most comprehensive and sophisticated manifestation of the Trickster.”[ii]

However, the Trickster God is not confined just to traditional primal cultures – today he is well and truly at home in the Technological/Materialist Landscape.

Trickster is at Home Today

AS JUNG STATES, the Trickster appears par excellence in modern man:

“He is a forerunner of the saviour, and like him, God, man, and animal at once. He is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine beingwhose chief and most alarming characteristic is his unconscious.”[iii]

While Hermes the Greek God is not reducible to the Trickster; in the West, the Trickster is frequently associated with Hermes – for example ‘Trickster Hermes’ and ‘Hermes the Trickster’. Combs and Holland argue that the Trickster God is universal:

“Best known to us in the West is the Greek God Hermes, who represents the most comprehensive and sophisticated manifestation of the Trickster.”[iv]

The Trickster, like Hermes and Hecate, is also specifically associated with liminality[v] – thresholds, or the point beyond which a sensation becomes too faint to be experienced.

Above all the Trickster is fun. In the Technological/Materialist Landscape we are all imbued with the Trickster and ‘his’ exploits – both angelic and devilish. We partake in his exuberance, ambitions, boundary exploration, trickery, games, sleights-of-hand, personas, commercial success, communications expertise, technological genius, liminality and in his shadow-side – if not in actuality then in fantasy. We both applaud him and are appalled by him. We live vicariously through the Trickster and his shadow via entertainment – films, video games and the mass communications of television, internet, texting, smart phones, magazines and books.

Today we are imbued with the Trickster. For those whose ‘focus of perception’ is primarily the Technological/Materialist Landscape, the symbolic correspondence between the individual’s inner life and the outer world has many of the characteristics inherent in the Trickster Archetype. When “an individual’s inner life corresponds in a symbolic way to the outer objective world, the two are connected by meaning”.[vi] In other words the inner life connected by symbolic meaning to the outer world is an indication of the governance of an archetype. As Combes and Holland state:

“The themes carried by archetypes are universal: they are neither wholly internal nor wholly external but are woven into the deepest fabric of the cosmos. This notion is supported by Jung’s idea that archetypes have their origins in the unus mundus, or “one world”, which is at the foundation of the psyche and the objective, physical world. Bohm’s concept of the holographic universe offers similar possibilities. It follows, then, that myths as expressions of archetypes might be expected to portray certain aspects of the object world as well as depicting psychological realities. Indeed many of the Greek Gods represent aspects of reality that overarch both the inner worlds of human experience and the external worlds of nature and society.”[vii]

[i] See for example Paul Radin, The Trickster – A Study in American Indian Mythology, with commentaries by Karl Kerenyi and C.G. Jung (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1956).

[ii] Alan Combs and Mark Holland, Synchronicity – Science, Myth and the Trickster (New York: Paragon House, 1990), 82.

[iii] C.G. Jung, Four Archetypes (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980),142-3. (Note: The internet throws up almost 13,000 associations between Trickster and Hermes).

[iv] Allan Combs and Mark Holland, Synchronicity – Science, Myth and the Trickster (New York: Paragon House, 1990), 82.

[v] George P. Hansen, The Trickster and the Paranormal (Philadelphia: Xlibris Corporation, 2001).

[vi] Allan Combs and Mark Holland, Synchronicity – Science, Myth and the Trickster (New York: Paragon House, 1990),  97.

[vii] Ibid, 79.

Revolutionising Religion

POSTMODERNISM HAS IMPACTED on religion. While modernist concerns with falsifiability have undermined, some would say fatally, orthodox religions; the impact of the postmodern pluralist spirituality challenge to fundamentalism is particularly devastating.

Vanhoozer distinguishes ‘modern theology’ from ‘postmodern theology’ and describes the situation of theology within postmodernism. Modern theology is situated within the Enlightenment critical and scientific narrative, while postmodernity marks both the end of theology and new beginnings. Postmodernity lets the particulars speak for themselves without having to conform to prevailing ideology or political system.[i]

Arguably the most appropriate methodologies for postmodern discourse are phenomenology, existentialism and hermeneutics.

For example, Dan Stiver talking about theological method in particular, emphasizes hermeneutics in postmodern theology; the “intertextual” and “intratextual nature of postmodern theology; the pluralistic spirit and the situated nature of the theologian. Contrary to those who would deny a distinction between modernist theology and postmodern theology, Stiver argues that theology in modernity relied largely on a foundationalist paradigm. The basis for theology had to be “nailed down” first.[ii] However, it was largely on the defensive because theology could hardly measure up to public standards for rigorous certainty and unchallengeable methods.

Postmodern Spirituality

THE RENAISSANCE OF ‘SPIRITUALITY’ has been associated with postmodernism.


“Postmodernity as spiritual condition” is argued by Vanhoozer. The condition of postmodernity “is neither simply philosophical nor simply socio-political, but spiritual, a condition in which belief and behavior come together in the shape of an embodied spirit”.[iii]

Ecofeminist, postmodern theologian Carol P. Christ argues that together with “many spiritual feminists, ecofeminists, ecologists, antinuclear activists, and others” she shares “the conviction that the crisis that threatens the destruction of the earth is not only social, political, economic, and technological, but is at root spiritual”.[iv]

Frederick Mark Gedlicks argues that for “religious pluralism to flourish in a postmodern era, the predominant expression of belief must be spiritual, rather than fundamentalist”.[v] He distinguishes fundamentalism, metanarratives, discrimination and government power from postmodernism, religious liberty, nondiscrimination, government absence and spirituality. That the concepts of ‘spirituality’ and ‘postmodernism’ have both been linked in De Paul Law Review (2005), a secular law journal dealing with the laws of state and society, would indicate perhaps that both concepts have now ‘come of age’.

GORDON D. KAUFMAN (1925-2011), the renowned American liberal theologian whose research, writing and teachings had a profound influence on constructive and systematic theology – gives an early working example of postmodern spiritual theology. He places an emphasis on mystery, imagination, and imaginal construction. Kaufman maintains theology is, and always has been, an activity of “imaginative construction” by persons attempting to put together as comprehensive and coherent a picture as they could of humanity in the world under God.[vi]

For Kaufman theology as “imaginative construction” contrasts with the conventional conceptions of theology whereby the work of theologians is “understood to consist largely in exposition of religious doctrine or dogma (derived from the Bible and other authoritative sources)”.[vii] Rather than concentrating on traditional doctrines, dogmas and their systematic presentation in a new historical situation, Kaufman places emphasis on imaginative construction and the powers of the human imagination: ‘symbolic perspective’ and plurality.

Hence Christianity is just one of a plurality of world views. He stresses de-emphasizing traditional doctrines in new historical situations, and the de-emphasis of the importance of literal historicity. All this exemplifies a postmodernist theological perspective.[viii]

[i] Vanhoozer (2003) The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, xiii-xiv.
[ii] Dan R. Stiver (2003) ‘Theological Method’ in: The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, 172-179.
[iii] Vanhoozer(2003) The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, 23.
[iv] Carol P. Christ, ‘Rethinking Theology and Nature’,  in: Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ (eds.), Weaving the Visions – New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality (Harper:  San Francisco, 1989), 314.
[v] Frederick Mark Gedicks, ‘Spirituality, Fundamentalism, Liberty: Religion at the End of Modernity’,  De Paul Law Review, (2005), Abstract. See ‘Social Science Network’: abstract id=634262.
[vi] Gordon D. Kaufman, In the Face of Mystery – A Constructive Theology (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993), ix.
[vii] Ibid, 40.[viii] Cf. Sheila Davaney (ed.), Theology at the End of Modernity: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Kaufman. (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991).

The Inner, Imaginal ‘Postmodern Ecological Landscape’

FACED WITH AN ECOLOGICAL CRISIS, the landscape which now confronts us is postmodern and ecological in focus. The Technological/Materialist Landscape is now frequently being questioned and even rejected for what could be termed a new, inner and imaginal Postmodern Ecological Landscape.

      This Postmodern Ecological Landscape is concurrent with a revision in epistemology. As has been shown, the modernist domination, objectification and externalisation of nature, built into concepts of science and modernist epistemology, has been increasingly criticised.[i]

With the Postmodern Ecological Landscape we seem to have returned to the primal animist sacred Nature/Earth Landscape imagination and vision. The difference is that perhaps we are more self-consciously and deliberately aware of the imagination in creating landscapes.

It could be argued that it is the inner archetypal landscapes of the psyche, from which the imagination springs, that creates the outer landscapes of our being in the world. Indeed, as shall be shown in the final chapter, this is what was argued by Henry Corbin in his translations and interpretations of the writings of the ancient Persian pre-Islamic mystics and the Shi’ite, Mazdean and Sufi mystics in respect to their ‘visionary geography’.

If this inner landscape of the psyche – or as cultural historian William Irwin Thompson terms it, “imaginary landscape of the “middle way of the mind”, in which “we humans come to know our world”[ii] – is accepted, then we would seem to have arrived at, or spiraled into, old understandings, feelings and rememberings of our spiritual embeddedness in the natural world.

American environmentalist and academic Lynn Ross-Bryant argues that Barry Lopez is one of a number of contemporary writers of ecological literature who offers a postmodern and holistic view of humans, nature and spirit. Most of these writers share a sense that “in allowing the mysterious otherness of nature to present itself, the ultimate dimension of life, the sacred, is revealed”.[iii]

For Lopez, imagination is the key to the relations and interactions between the natural world and human beings. These relations are mediated by the imagination and creations of the imagination. Thus Lopez asks: “How do people imagine the landscapes they find themselves in? How does the land shape the imaginations of the people who dwell in it? How does desire itself, the desire to comprehend, shape itself, the desire to comprehend, shape knowledge?”[iv]

Lopez argues that we must approach the land with an “uncalculating mind” and with an attitude of regard, because whatever evaluation we finally make will be inadequate: “To intend from the beginning to preserve some of the mystery within it as a kind of wisdom to be experienced, not questioned. And to be alert for its openings, for that moment when something sacred reveals itself within the mundane, and you know that the land knows you are there”.[v]

Imagination, mystery, wisdom, the sacred within the mundane and the reciprocity of I-Thou relation are all characteristics of the Postmodern Ecological Landscape. Lopez speaks of a relationship with the arctic landscape which is mystical, emotional, lyrical and reverent:

“I came to believe that people’s desires and aspirations were as much a part of the land as the wind, solitary animals, and the bright fields of stone and tundra. And, too, that the land itself existed quite apart from these.”[vi]

This is a very different imagination and ‘focus of perception’ from the secular I-It world of the modernist Technological/Materialist Landscape, in which the sacred has been critically and rationally excised from the landscape.

Oil workers in the arctic told Lopez “the Arctic was really a great wasteland ‘with a few stupid birds’, too vast to be hurt. Whatever strong men could accomplish against the elements in such a place, they insisted was inherently right.” A drilling supervisor said “Technology is inevitable. People just got to get that through their heads”.[vii]

Lopez like other recent writers of ecological literature, who could be described as postmodernist, share not only an extensive knowledge of the land but also an unabashed I-Thou relation with the Nature/Earth Landscape. They are not restricted by the I-It objectivist epistemology of science, technology and materialism. Rather they are willing and unafraid to use poetic language and acknowledge imagination and metaphor as a means of exploring and describing other ways of knowing. There is an emphasis on wholeness and relationship with the natural world. In Lynn Ross-Bryant’s words:

“Their intent is to know humans better by knowing them as part of the natural order, and, insofar as possible, through metaphor and imagination, to know the land better as well. Through this use of the imagination they come to an awareness of the whole process of which humans are an interrelated part which leads them to a double emphasis, first on human responsibility to the whole and all its parts and second on human spirituality as it is rooted in this experience of the whole.”[viii]

Unlike The Judaic-Christian Anthropocentric Landscape where the sacred is transcendent, and the Technological/Materialist Landscape where the sacred is leached from the landscape and men would objectify and manipulate the land to their own materialist ‘progressive’ ends, there is a revisioning in landscape perception by these environmentalist writers towards a Postmodern Ecological Landscape.

These writers “share a love for and extensive knowledge of the land emphasizing nature as nature rather than nature as a springboard to transcendent reflections on humans”.[ix] Ross-Bryant argues that for Lopez there is an interaction between humans and nature:

“imagination and desire encounter the landscape and the living things in it: knowledge is gained – not simply of one’s imagination, nor purely of the land, but of the mysterious process in which land and humans – all living things – are involved.”[x]

This is in essence a description of the mystical I-Thou relation.

Lopez wants to change the way we imagine the world. He shows the different ways in which Eskimos, explorers, painters and oil workers have imagined the arctic landscape and the consequences of their imagination. Ross-Bryant says of Lopez’s spirituality and what he identifies as sacred is an encounter with wholeness and mystery in the encounter with the earth:

“The experience of wholeness and mystery that he everywhere encounters in the things and people of the earth is the heart of his spirituality and his connection with what he identifies as the sacred.”[xi]

THE IMAGINATION HAS A ROLE IN EVOLUTION and one might add a spiritual revolution. Lopez states “The continuous work of the imagination…(is)…to bring what is actual together with what is dreamed is an expression of human evolution”.[xii]

It could also be argued that it is the continuous work of the imagination to bring what is actual together with what is dreamed of, that is reflected at the collective level in historical changes in landscape ‘focus of perception’. In this regard, it is worth noting Bishop’s argument that:

“Postmodernism marks not so much the end of history, as the end of history as concrete reality … Indeed, it marks the beginning of history (the past memory) as a metaphorical reality. By identifying the possible plurality of histories, HISTORY can be deliteralised. Like all the old literal power-words – Progress, Duty, Heritage, God – ‘History’ now becomes an imagistic truth.”[xiii]

For cultural historian William Thompson the orthodox religion of our era is “scientific materialism,”[xiv] but at the same time “Gaia [the Earth] is a new landscape” and the new mentality is a “planetary culture” or “postmodernism”.[xv] While he uses different terms, Thompson’s arguments accord with the perspective of the postmodern ecological landscape.

Thompson critiques modernism and argues for the return of the imagination as a mode of participatory perception – a way of being in the world and knowing.

“[T]he value of the imagination returns to challenge the reductionist mentality of modernism that ruled during the period of the mechanization of the world picture.”[xvi]

Thompson points out that in the straightforward linear world that Whitehead called “scientific materialism”, “it is precisely simile and metaphor that the materialist is trying to eliminate in reductionism” and that:

“this naïve philosophy, cultural constructs like “space” and “objects” are taken to be independent of the mind that frames them through its own threshold of possible perceptions, and by a strange inversion that amounts to a perversion, “mind” and “culture” are reduced to accidental collisions of these imaginary “real” objects in “real” space.”[xvii]

We are at one of “those exciting times when the creative imagination of an entire civilization is undergoing a transformation of its basic mentality”.[xviii] The dynamic mentality of modernism, the mentality of Galileo, Newton and Descartes with its linear equations is moving into a postmodernist science of which Chaos Dynamics is one important expression.[xix]

The Gaia hypothesis has stimulated a new way of knowing the planet and it is “as large and imaginatively provocative for our era as Darwinian evolution was for our great-grand parents time”.[xx] It gives “a new way of appreciating how the part participates in the whole” .[xxi]

Again there is great emphasis on the imagination. Thompson maintains that the imagistic mode that we call the Imagination is an ancient faculty which seems to involve a prelinguistic form of mind in which “thought is developed through correspondences, homologies, and participations of identity”.[xxii]

The imagination “is like a transformer” and metaphors are by their very nature transformers.[xxiii] Thompson argues that it is the “metaphorical process through which the Imagination takes in knowledge and steps it down into the conventional imagery of the sensory world with which we are all familiar… the Imagination is an intermediate realm, the realm of the artist, scientist, or prophet who renders the Intelligible into the Sensible”.[xxiv] The fundamentalist is not able to follow the symbolic utterance and takes image literally.[xxv] Thompson concludes that:

“Between the heights of the macrocosm of the Gaian atmosphere and the elemental depths of the microcosm of the bacterial earth lies the middle way of the Mind and it is in this imaginary landscape of the middle way, whether we call it the Madhyamika of Buddhism or the Christ of Steiner or the Da’at of the Kabbalah, that we humans take our life and come to know our world as the dark horizon that illuminates our hidden center.”[xxvi]

In Thompson’s view, landscape is inextricably tied to the interior mind and the imagination; and this is a postmodern view of landscape.

LANDSCAPES ARE BOTH IMAGINAL AND VISIONARY. Landscapes are sourced in the personal and collective imagination of the psyche. That our landscapes derive from personal and collective imagination has long been recognized by geographers wrestling with the concept of landscape. The prime role of the imagination in creating landscape is inherent in postmodern geography. It is however in the consideration of spiritual landscapes that the role of the imagination becomes most apparent.

At the collective level, particularly in the West, there have been discernable historical changes in spiritual imaginal-visionary landscapes: the primal sacred Nature/Earth Landscape; the Judeao-Christian revelatory Anthropocentric Landscape; the modernist ‘secular’ Technological/Materialist Landscape; and the imaginal Postmodern Ecological Landscape which allows for an Inner Landscape from which our outer landscapes are a manifestation and materialization.

With the Postmodern Ecological Landscape we seem to have created a full circle return to the animist, sacred, Nature/Earth Landscape imagination and vision. The difference is that we are more consciously and deliberately aware of the imagination in creating landscape.

Paradoxically, it would seem that spiritual and imaginal-visionary landscapes have simultaneously undergone historical change and are timeless. There is a timelessness or historical transcendence in our understanding of and our potentiality to participate in different spiritual, imaginal-visionary landscapes, which could be called archetypal. This archetypal aspect of landscape, which is historically transcendent and centred in the individual’s psyche, is the subject for the next chapter.

[i] Cindy Katz and Andrew Kirby, ‘In the Nature of Things: The Environment and Everyday Life’, in: Transactions – Institute of British Geographers, v.16, no.3 (1991), 259-271.

[ii] William Irwin Thompson, Imaginary Landscape: Making Worlds of Myth and Science (New York: Saint Martin’s Press, 1989),169.

[iii] Lynn Ross-Bryant, ‘Of Nature and Texts: Nature and Religion in American Ecological Literature’, Anglican Theological Review, v.73, no.1 (1991), 38.

[iv] Lopez, Arctic Dreams, xxvii.

[v] Ibid, 228.

[vi] Ibid, xxii.

[vii] Ibid, 398-399.

[viii] Lynn Ross-Bryant, ‘Of Nature and Texts: Nature and Religion in American Ecological Literature’, 39.

[ix] Ibid, 39.

[x] Ibid, 41.

[xi] Ibid, 49.

[xii] Lopez(1998) Arctic Dreams, 414.

[xiii] P. Bishop, ‘Rhetoric, Memory, and Power: Depth Psychology and Postmodern Geography’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space,  v.10, no.1 (1992), 17.

[xiv] William Irwin Thompson, Imaginary Landscape: Making Worlds of Myth and Science, 52.

[xv] Ibid, 130; see also 123.

[xvi] Ibid, 131.

[xvii] Ibid, 50-51.

[xviii] Ibid, xviii.

[xix] Ibid, xix.

[xx] Ibid, 130.

[xxi] Ibid, 84.

[xxii] Ibid, 80.

[xxiii] Ibid, 83.

[xxiv] Ibid, 84.

[xxv] Ibid, 83.

[xxvi] Ibid, 169.

Archetypal Theory and Carl Jung

BECAUSE BOTH JUNG and archetypal theory have come under attack in recent years, it is worthwhile to briefly clarify the epistemological parameters, controversial issues, and answers to challenges. In essence, archetypal theory is associated with the life-long thought, work and research of Carl Jung. As James Hillman argues, it was Jung “who reintroduced the ancient idea of archetype into modern psychology”.[i]

THE EVIDENCE given for archetypes in this chapter is largely based within the parameters of Jung’s archetypal theory – ‘archetypes of the unconscious’. This is not to say that Jung is the only archetypal theorist. Henry Corbin, James Hillman and others, throughout history, are also important. Corbin is particularly seminal in regard to archetypal landscapes, as we shall see in the last chapter. Hillman is an important contemporary archetypal philosopher and theorist, who “offers a way into Jung – and a way out of Jung, especially his theology. For to stay wholly with this one thinker is to remain a Jungian, which as Jung himself said is possible only for Jung”.[ii]

By calling on Jung to begin with, Hillman states he is acknowledging the fundamental debt archetypal psychology owes to Jung. Jung is the immediate ancestor in a long line that stretches back through to Plato and to Heraclitus, with even more branches yet to be traced. But Hillman also acknowledges “the second immediate father of archetypal psychology”, namely Henry Corbin (1903-1978).[iii] Hillman argues that for Corbin the fundamental nature of the archetype is accessible to imagination first and presents itself as an image; hence the entire procedure for archetypal psychology as a method is imaginative.[iv]

Jung’s Challenge

JUNG’S THINKING SPANS both modernism and postmodernism. Jung is now recognized as an important postmodernist. Of course, Jung and his theory of archetypes are controversial in some quarters. Perhaps this is not surprising. Jung implicitly challenged the patriarchy and the ideologies behind patriarchal hegemony. He challenged Freud, the undisputed ‘Father of Psychoanalysis’. Jung wanted to go beyond Freud’s foundationalist theories of sexuality – for example the ‘Oedipus complex’ and ‘penis envy’ – to an exploration of spirituality.

Jung was a life-long student of world religions, both historical and cultural. He challenged head on Western monotheistic cultures with the concept of an inner spirituality within the archetypes of the collective unconscious. This spirituality was pluralistic and had many potential ‘Gods’. In this, it was more akin to Paganism, alchemy, Gnosticism, the hermetic traditions and the mystical and esoteric wisdom streams. Jung challenged the monotheistic ‘God/Father’ concept. This was just one archetype among many; hence Jung challenged the hegemony of the traditional religious institutions and their foundational disciplines. In particular, he challenged fundamentalism and modernist theology. For Jung the God image, or Imago Dei, comes from within the psyche. It is an archetype. It displays the struggle of the psyche for self-realisation; which is the spiritual goal of the individual and all of humanity.

THE SOUL AS THE FEMININE PRINCIPLE or anima archetype within the human being, was emphasized by Jung. It is perhaps because of this that he was well regarded by educated and independent women, both in his time and after his death.

As well, the anima archetype within is congenial to openly gay men, and those heterosexual men secure enough in their personhood and masculinity to be happy to enjoy and acknowledge their feminine side. This recognition of the archetypal power of the anima, redeemed the feminine, long derogated within traditional patriarchal monotheism. For example Jung argued that the “whole nature of man presupposes woman, both physically and spiritually.” [v]


[i] James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), xiii.

[ii] Ibid, xii.

[iii] James Hillman, Archetypal Psychology – A Brief Account (Dallas: Spring Publications,Inc. 993), 2.

[iv] Ibid, 4.

[v] Carl Jung, ‘Two Essays in Archetypal Psychology’, in: Collected Works, vol. 7, 188.

Evidence For Archetypes

EVIDENCE FOR ARCHETYPES can be divided into several different categories: (1) ‘associative evidence’, similar or associative theory which overtly supports archetypes or bears a resemblance to archetypal theory; (2) ‘scientific evidence’, where it is argued Jung’s method which is descriptive and phenomenological is not unscientific, and ‘archetypes’ are given theoretical support from the theory of other scientists; (3) ‘evidence from quantum physics, which is support from the theory of quantum physicists.

Complicating the issue of evidence for archetypes is that acceptable evidence is dependent on how archetypes are defined. Different theorists have defined archetypes in different ways. For example, while the leading Romanian and latterly American academic historian and philosopher of religion Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) and James Hillman define archetypes in similar ways to Jung, there are also differences. Jung, a self-described empiricist, wanted a naturalistic theory of archetypes which had scientific credibility. Hillman would abandon the scientific approach to archetypes altogether and advocate instead that we see science from the viewpoint of archetypes. For Hillman, science itself is a sort of myth and fantasy of the soul.

Even within the archetypal theory of one thinker, most notably Jung, there can be many strains of thought which can appear contradictory. Jung, however, is acknowledged as the pre-eminent thinker on archetypes in the twentieth century – and it is precisely because his theory encompasses both modernist scientific perspectives and evidence from quantum science and postmodern and mystical perspectives that his thought is so compelling, evocative and complex.

Walter A. Shelburne philosophy professor and founding member of the Applied Philosophy Institute, California, has studied and examined the scientific and logical evidential parameters of Jung’s theory of archetypes in depth. He concludes:

“even though there are these many strains of Jung’s thought – a philosophical emphasis, a mythos emphasis, as well as a scientific emphasis – this is not to say that everything Jung said has to be evaluated from the critical standpoint of any one particular point of view. For…in spite of the confusion that Jung creates by working over his material from these methodologically divergent perspectives, a legitimately scientific perspective can nonetheless be reconstructed from his thought.”[i]

[i] Walter A. Shelburne, Mythos and Logos in the Thought of Carl Jung – The Theory of the Collective Unconscious in Scientific Perspective (State University of New York Press, 1988), 10.

Archetypes and Platonic Forms

‘ARCHETYPE’ IS GREEK in origin and dates from classical times.[i] Jung’s first use of the term archetype was in 1919 and Jung makes the point strongly that ‘archetype’ was synonymous with ‘Idea’ in Platonic usage. He consistently states that the term has precisely that pre-existent, a priori meaning that it had for Augustine and Plato.[ii] In particular Jung acknowledged his debt to Plato, describing archetypes as “active living dispositions, ideas in the Platonic sense, that preform and continually influence our thoughts and feelings and actions”.[iii]

ARCHETYPES ARE TIMELESS, for Jung, as for Mircea Eliade. Eliade, like Jung, compares archetypes to the Platonic “forms that exist “on supraterrestrial planes”.[iv] But while there are striking similarities in Jung’s and Eliade’s understanding of archetype, there are also sharp divergences.

The whole thrust of Eliade’s ontology is towards escaping the profane time of history and maximising our consciousness of sacred mythic time of eternal archetypes. As Dudley points out: “The archetype has an exclusively positive and redemptive role in Eliade’s scheme of things. With Jung however, the case is different. For him the archetype can be both positive and negative, redemptive and destructive”.[v]

To become subsumed into the collective unconscious where archetypes reign, for Jung, is to lose oneself. The goal is a balance and connectedness between ego and archetypes, hence individuation which can occur through a dialectic between the individual ego and archetypes.[vi]

Despite their differences, Jung and Eliade’s understanding of archetypes is strikingly close. They staked their life’s works on the existence and understanding of archetypes. Both believed that humankind’s survival depends on developing consciousness of the archetypes.[vii]

Like archetypes themselves, the theory of archetypes, as Stevens points out, recurs in different guises at different times and places; indeed:

“the theory has been rediscovered and propounded in different terminologies by the ethologists (Lorenz’s innate releasing mechanisms), Gestalt psychologists (Wolfgang Kohler’s isomorphs), developmental psychologists (John Bowlby’s behavioral systems), biologists (Ernst Mayr’s open programs), anthropologists (Fox’s biogrammar), and psycholinguists (Naom Chomsky’s language acquisition device).”[viii]

THE ARCHETYPE POSSESSES A FUNDAMENTAL DUALITY: it is both psychic and nonpsychic. What is passed on from generation to generation is a structure – a characteristic patterning of matter and it is this ‘physic’ pattern which forms the replicable archetype of the species.   As Stevens describes it, the archetypal hypothesis proposes we possess innate neuropsychic centres which orchestrate the common behavioural characteristics and experiences of all human beings regardless of culture, race or creed. This is akin to Jean Piaget’s mental developmental stages, Fox’s idea of inbuilt programmes for learning, and H.F and M.K. Harlow’s theory that “social development depends on the motivation of a sequence of affectional systems”.[ix] Other theorists whose thinking has an affinity with the archetypal hypothesis and hence provide associative evidence include Kepler, Kant, Lorenz and Pauli. They have emphasized “inner ideas” or images which correspond with external events perceived through the senses.[x]


[i] Stevens, Archetype – A Natural History of the Self, 47.
[ii] See Guilford Dudley, ‘Jung and Eliade: A Difference of Opinion’, Psychological Perspectives, vol.10, Part 1 (1979), 41.
[iii] Anthony Stevens (1982) Archetype – A Natural  History of the Self,
39;  Cf. C.G. Jung, ‘The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche’, 
Collected Works, 8, 154.
[iv] Dudley (1979) ‘Jung and Eliade: A Difference of Opinion’, 42.
[v] Ibid, 45.
[vi] Ibid, 46.
[vii] Ibid, 47.
[viii] Anthony Stevens, ‘Thoughts on the Psychobiology of Religion’,
Zygon, vol.21, no.1 (1986), 13.

[ix] Ibid, 12.
[x] Ibid, 19.